Red Feather Follies

The food, the wine, and the décor at this year’s 10th Annual United Way Red Feather Ball, held at Bacara Resort on Saturday, October 14, was top-notch, first-rate. Performers from Le Cirque added expertise and physiques to the red-dominated fun. But, but, but… the featured entertainment – “Philanthropy, The Musical” – written, directed, produced, and choreographed by Erin Graffy de Garcia was the memorable, unforgettable, worth-the-price-of-a-dozen-admissions, three-star Guide Michelin feast. None other than one of the night’s honorees, Mr. Santa Barbara Larry Crandell, called the show, “the best segment of entertainment in the forty-six years” he’s been attending such events. “Erin,” he continued, “is probably the best parodist on the West Coast, maybe in the whole country.” While that may sound like local-live-auction hyperbole, Larry may actually be right.

Erin is an author (“How To Santa Barbara” is her best-selling tome, but she has a number of other books on myriad subjects in print), columnist, lyricist, and a political heavyweight (Dingle, Ireland, became one of Santa Barbara’s sister cities in record time, mostly through Ms Graffy’s promotion, prodding, persuasion, and persistence). She sings, she dances (ballroom style with husband Jim Garcia), she’s the auctioneer, the emcee, the… well, after this year’s Red Feather Ball Musical Mischief Production, the Toaster of Santa Barbara Town.

Erin’s musical ensemble consisted of herself, along with the mellifluous and eye-battingly charming Susan Keller, the diminutive and seductive Anne Towbes, the confident and commanding (Captain) Fred Benko, the surprisingly graceful baritone Steve Crandell, and the iconic, ironic, Parker Montgomery; Leslie Ridley-Tree joined them towards the end of the show in a surprise singing performance. The nearly legendary Gil Rosas accompanied on piano and emcee Debby Davison kept the show rolling along. Professional auctioneer John Carson brought in some $50,000 during the live auction.

The idea of the evening was to celebrate 10 years of philanthropy from some of Santa Barbara’s most generous and/or active citizens: Red Feather Ball co-founder Katherine Abercrombie was this year’s honoree.

Featuring sparkling lyrics like “It’s still the same old ending, Nonprofits fight for funding; A case of ‘dough’ or die. The world will always welcome donors, As dimes roll by” sung to the tune of “As Time Goes By,” and spirited ditties like “You Can Get a Man With a Gun” (sung by Anne Towbes as a salute to former Santa Barbara County Sheriff Jim Thomas): “Folks think it’s important, For guys in law enforcement, To make safety their number one, So the man they elected, He kept us all protected, Oh, you can get a man with a gun!” (from Irving Berlin’s “Annie Get Your Gun”), “Philanthropy, The Musical” was a unique and electric synthesis of small-town charisma and big-city talent.

Larry Crandell, serenaded by his son Steven (“Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight”), held an ad hoc auction for a repeat performance of the show and Michael Towbes bid $10,000 for the privilege of putting on this parody of charity at some other time and venue. When asked whether he would consider “Philanthropic, The Musical,” as the opening night entertainment at the Granada in the fall of ’07, he nodded in the affirmative that he would indeed consider it.

The Grand Finale, “That’s Philanthropic!” (sung to the tune of “That’s Entertainment!”) that included cleverly precise lyrics like: “When your grub, Feeds the kids at a club, Or your dough, Makes a new building go, Or your pay, goes to United Way… That’s philanthropic!”, concluded the evening in an inspired, unadulteratedly joyous, arm-in-arm songfest. Ear-to-ear grins, loud guffaws, and deafening applause then gave way to loose-legged abandon on the dance floor.

Now, That’s what we’d call Entertainment!

The Days of His Life

Montecito Union graduate and Santa Barbara High School “Music Of The Night” co-creator Blake Berris is about to become a daytime soap opera star. He recently signed a four-year contract to appear as the handsome but nerdy genius Nick Fallon on NBC’s “Days Of Our Lives” (1 pm daily).

“Think Napoleon Dynamite,” Blake says during a telephone conversation from his home in Westwood. “Nick Fallon is new to Salem,” he explains, “and is a genius, a brainiac. And, he’s really dorky,” Blake laughs. “When I went into the first audition,” he continues, “I went in like really, really geeky-looking. I went all out. People were looking at me, like, ‘Are you from L.A.?’ I just walked in with a smile on my face and was ready to go.”

Casting Director Fran Bascom liked Berris’s presentation, however, and called him back the following week to meet with the producers of the show. She did ask him, however, to play the character “not quite so geeky,” and so he will, beginning with his first appearance on Tuesday, November 7.

Blake attended Montecito Union School (and Montessori, when it met at MUS, before that) from kindergarten through sixth grade, and attended SBJHS and SBHS. At Santa Barbara High, he, along with Evan Hughes (Blake’s UCLA roommate who recently won a Music Academy-sponsored opera recital in New York City), Portia Burton, and Ashley Rogers, co-founded and co-created “Music Of The Night,” which has become an annual talent showcase ever since. This past year, Blake’s sister Riley Berris was one of the (still four) directors of the popular musical revue.

Before filming the series this fall, Blake spent the summer in Oxford, immersed in a Shakespeare program. It was something, he says, that prepared him perfectly for the amount of memorizing required for his new job. “Days Of Our Lives” began filming the week of October 9, and Blake works a five-day week. “It all depends how much of the storyline” he’s involved with that week, he says. He says he gets the script “at least a day before, sometimes earlier.”

Now that he’s found steady work, he chuckles, he will probably buy a new car. He sold his ’88 Toyota Camry before leaving for Europe, he explains, and when he came back had to borrow his sister’s car and “was essentially living out of it” until his apartment became available.

The things he remembers most about his school days in Montecito? “The cool thing to do was to go to the Wine & Cheese Shop in the Upper Village after school. I remember playing on the huge map of the United States in the [MUS] playground, and music class with Pam McClendon. I also had the good fortune,” he says, “of having her husband, Phil McClendon, in high school.”

Blake and another Santa Barbara friend, Hannah Utt, are part of a theater group that started at UCLA; they have three productions slated for this year. Blake wrote one of them, “a drama or dark comedy” called “Privilege” that he hasn’t finished yet.

That Blake may become a daytime star will probably come as no surprise to his show-biz parents. Dad, Ken Berris, was a creative director at an ad agency before turning to directing, whereupon he created more than 500 television commercials. As writer-director-producer, Ken is a pioneer in the interactive film business. “Spycraft,” made nearly 10 years ago, was made with the direct cooperation of former CIA director William Colby and ex-KGB head Oleg Kalugin. Ken also produced “Pinocchio” with Martin Landau and Jonathan Taylor Thomas. Blake’s mom, Lauren Berris, is a freelance writer, has worked as costume designer and stylist, and serves on the board of the Marjorie Luke Theatre.

The Objects of It All

Art and fashion are their passion: Arlyn Goldsby, Jane Litchfield, and Dorothy Dearman, of Tours des Artes are collaborating on an “art fashion and fine art” exhibition set for Thursday, November 16 from 5 pm to 8 pm. A small percentage of the proceeds of any sale made that evening will go to Transition House.

The concept will combine two venues, Objects on Coast Village Road, which features clothing, jewelry, accessories, and one-of-a-kind objets d’art, with Tours des Artes, an upstairs art gallery at 5390 Overpass, just off Patterson, and will feature Montecito talents from across the spectrum.

“We will be showing five extremely talented local artists,” Arlyn explains, “in their own venue, and their own space.” The artists will circulate among the guests, and the art and designer clothing as well as designer jewelry will be on display. A silent auction will be held for one of Leatrice Luria’s fused glass bowls, and a Masha Archer jewelry piece.

“We’ve been in business for close to two years,” Jane Litchfield says, explaining that Tours des Artes was Dorothy Dearman’s concept. “We take our clients around to the various homes and studios that the artists live and work in,” she explains. They now represent more than 80 artists and work strictly non-exclusively and on consignment.

Some of the local artists include Peter Clark, Ruth Ellen Hoag, Zivana Gojanovic, Dorothy Churchill Johnson (who just came back from Russia), Leatrice Luria, Elliot Chang, Lou Mariani, Jill Vander Hoof, and Joanne Duby.

Admission is free, hors d’oeurves and refreshments will be served and valet parking is available, so if you’d like to mix and mingle with artists and their models on a cool Thursday evening, call Santa Barbara Tours de Arte at 683-2523.

A Bacara Laguna Blanca Union

The annual Laguna Blanca School auction at Bacara Resort was the scene for the marriage proposal of the Master of Ceremonies. Terri Lynn Garlock became engaged that evening to Brandt Alan Handley. Terri received her engagement ring in the 900-year-old St. Peter’s Cathedral in Geneva, Switzerland.

Ms Garlock is founder and CEO of TerrG, a marketing services company, and Handley leads executive recruiting for DHR International. Terri has an 8-year-old, Sophie, from a previous marriage. Handley has two kids – Natalie, 14, and Christian, 16. The wedding is scheduled for March 2007, in Montecito, where the couple lives.

The David & Andy Show

It was one of those unique Montecito invites and, like a $25-million pocket real estate listing, one felt especially privileged to have received it: “Mary Belle Snow,” the invite read, “is having a cocktail reception at her house for David Horowitz and Buzz Patterson…” Well, that is why we live in Montecito, isn’t it? Presidents (Reagan, Clinton, Bush) regularly visit, international celebrities hide and/or live here, so any chance to participate in the intellectual maelstrom should be savored.

For the uninitiated (or incurably liberal), David Horowitz is a former communist enfant terrible, editor of Ramparts, and Black Panther supporter, turned influential conservative warrior. “In the ‘sixties, to my everlasting embarrassment,” he confesses, “I was part of (the communist left) and have spent the rest of my life paying my debt to society.” Horowitz publishes FrontPageMag.com, a daily online magazine; he also leads an effort to create a Students Bill of Rights on campuses across America.

Former U.S. Air Force pilot Buzz Patterson is author of “Dereliction of Duty,” and served as President Clinton’s military aide – the man with the “nuclear football.” Patterson does not have a lot of respect for the former president. Both men were scheduled to speak later at UCSB, a college that Horowitz says is “one of the least free campuses I have ever visited, but it is not miles worse than others.”

Upon arrival at Ms Snow’s spectacular Mediterranean-style estate, I spotted Horowitz and Andy Granatelli huddled in private conversation in a small alcove across from the outdoor kitchen where the appetizers were being prepared.

When Horowitz finally addressed the small (40-plus) gathering, he didn’t disappoint. The following are just some of his statements, attitudes, observations, and warnings:

“We’ve never had a major party [Democrat] declare war on our own government in the middle of a war until now.”

“Do not call [our opponents] liberals. We are liberal people; they are ruthless; they are shameless, and they are rude.”

“If you believe you can bring about God’s kingdom of Heaven on Earth, what crime will you not commit? What lie will you not tell? That’s how to understand the people on the Left.”

“As for the polls that report the American people are now opposed to the continuation of the war in Iraq, a Gallup Poll taken in April 1941, after Hitler had conquered most of Europe, and the Japanese had conquered China and Southeast Asia, seventy percent of the American people wanted to stay out of the war.”

Why do Americans always wish to stay out of these wars? “Because it’s so great living in this country. Because there is so much opportunity. Who wants to go to war? The totalitarians do, that’s who.”

What do the terrorists want? “What they want to achieve is a global empire ruled by Islamic or Sha’aria law and to kill all infidels in their way. I never thought I’d say we had an enemy that was worse than the communists, but Islam is worse than the communists. Radical Islam, if you like. You know, I’m waiting for all those moderate Muslims [to come forward].”

Why is the Left so successful? “They understand politics. There is no relationship between politics and reality. Politics is a mirage.”

“If you’re a Leftist, you believe the kingdom of heaven is around the corner if only you get enough political power to pick everybody’s pockets and kill anybody that opposes you. That’s the ‘Progressive’ view of the world. The conservatives are happy if today the world isn’t worse than it was yesterday.”

And on college campuses? “The anti-war Leftists discovered that colleges and universities were the perfect place from which to operate. They got control of the search and hiring committees.”

“In my day, universities were institutions dedicated to the disinterested pursuit of knowledge. Today, they call themselves ‘Agencies of Social Change.’ There is a very different mentality if you are a professor who is disinterestedly pursuing knowledge and you are a political activist who holds a chair at a university.”

“The left created whole new fields, like black studies, women’s studies, and filled them with radicals and made the courses mandatory so they would grow. So, now a Republican on a faculty in America is as rare as a unicorn, and getting rarer.”

“Look at Ward Churchill. He’s still teaching. This guy is a complete academic fraud. His degree is an M.A. in drawing and he’s teaching ethnic studies and gets a hundred twenty thousand dollars a year for three hours a week, and another sixty thousand dollars or seventy thousand a year in speeches. He cannot be fired.”

“The intellectual level on campuses is abysmal. If we let the universities continue this downward slide, we’re going to lose this country.”

Horowitz’s strategy for regaining or at least neutralizing the Left’s power in the university system is to sponsor new faculty and new departments. His Center For The Study of Free Institutions in Civic Education is dedicated to studying the moral, philosophic, political, historical, and economic foundations of free societies.

“It’s going to take a few years to make this happen,” he admits, but opines that, “If you create a department controlled by the professors in that department, that’s the way to win.”

He hopes to create “the FOX News equivalent” on campus and suggests it is possible but that patience will be required: “The conservative movement in this century began with Barry Goldwater, the Left goes back to the French Revolution,” and notes that conservatives now have talk radio, FOX News Channel, and the Internet.

Before heading off to fight at UCSB, he sounded a note of optimism. “The bad news,” he says, “is they’ve got very far; the good news is that we’re just beginning to fight.”

Horowitz concluded his notes and was about to leave when Andy Granatelli jumped up to remind attendees the reason they were there was to raise money for Horowitz’s efforts; Andy managed to pull in nearly $10,000 ($2,500 of his own money) for the cause in a two-minute plea for some checkbook support.